#Sustainability20: Archer wins $142m eVTOL purchase contract from US Air Force & Other Stories In Aviation
Weekly Roundup - 11/08/23
Each Friday, we publish a round-up of the 20 most important stories on sustainable aviation. You can see previous editions of #Sustainability20 here.
France plans to raise taxes on airline tickets to fund train infrastructure, making rail travel more appealing. Transport Minister Clément Beaune announced that these taxes, aimed at addressing flight costs often being cheaper than trains, are likely to be implemented in 2024. Beaune also mentioned a potential European tax on aircraft fuel.
European Union plans to tax polluting aviation fuels have stalled as the 27 member states struggle to agree on making green fuels cheaper and fossil fuels more costly. The negotiations for an overhaul of energy taxes, unaltered since 2003, have reached an impasse, with unanimous approval required for changing EU tax policy. Some countries are concerned about potential political fallout from increased fuel prices before next year's European Parliament elections.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) has signed a Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) credit purchase agreement with carbon capture company 1PointFive, marking the world's first airline to do so. The purchase supports ANA's goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and aligns with its larger climate transition plan, focusing on emissions reduction, sustainable aviation fuel, and Direct Air Capture (DAC). The partnership aims to help the airline achieve net zero and supports 1PointFive's mission to curb global temperature rise.
Brazil's largest carriers Gol and Azul reported that only a tiny fraction of passengers are willing to pay to offset carbon emissions from their flights, even though the cost is relatively low. The airlines' voluntary carbon reduction projects with partners Moss and CHOOOSE have seen very low adherence, reflecting a lack of passenger commitment to spending on emission offsets, a challenge faced globally in the aviation sector's pursuit of net zero emissions by 2050.
The planet's average sea surface temperature reached record highs in April, with hot spots nearing 100°F (38°C), especially in the North Atlantic. Contributing factors include El Niño and human-driven climate change, with potential influences from shipping rules, absence of Saharan dust, and an underwater volcano. While ocean warming falls within climate model projections, the extreme heat is devastating marine ecosystems and communities, and absorbing over 90% of heat from human activities, delaying global warming but contributing to sea level rise and weather changes.
Infrastructure and operational efficiencies
London Heathrow Airport has initiated a trial to test the effectiveness of lower-carbon concrete that reduces emissions by 50% compared to traditional concrete. Led by Jacobs and implemented by Cemex and Ecocem, the trial will assess four different applications in a real airport setting, aiming to provide a blueprint for other airports and contribute to Heathrow's sustainability strategy.
Wizz Air, a leading European airline, has reported an 11% decrease in carbon emissions intensity to 53.8 grams per passenger/km in fiscal year 2023, its lowest ever. The company's sustainability strategy focuses on environmental footprint reduction, employee growth, socio-economic contribution, and corporate governance. Recent achievements include fleet renewal, biofuel investments, and gender balance within the organization.
San Diego International Airport has started using renewable diesel, made from vegetable oil, animal fats, and agricultural waste, in all diesel-powered airside vehicles and equipment. This transition is estimated to reduce emissions by up to 75% or more compared to traditional petroleum diesel, marking a significant step in the airport's sustainability efforts.
In July 2022, Raytheon Technologies launched the STEP-Tech demonstrator program to expand hybrid-electric technology in aviation. The modular system is designed for various applications, including advanced air mobility vehicles and high-speed VTOL. Ground testing began in 2022, and the initiative supports the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
The Biden administration is divided over a US biofuel industry request that could make corn-based ethanol qualify for subsidies for SAF. The debate centers on which scientific model to use to measure emissions, triggering a lobbying battle between Farm Belt supporters who favour ethanol and environmentalists who oppose land clearance for fuel crops. The decision will influence billions in subsidies, with a resolution expected by September.
The US is set to see massive expansion in renewable fuels capacity over the next three years. Conventional refiners like Marathon, Valero, and World Energy are transforming existing plants into sustainable fuel refineries, with new SAF volumes expected to bring exponential growth in overall US capacity. Challenges remain in commercialization and adoption, but robust growth in SAF demand is expected through 2030.
Brazil has the potential to become a major player in SAF, according to a Boeing executive. With its expertise in biofuels and ample agricultural resources, Brazil could help the aviation industry reach its net-zero emissions goal by 2050. Challenges include high costs and slow production growth of SAF.
Gevo's Net-Zero 1 ethanol-to-jet project has been invited by the US Department of Energy (DOE) for due diligence and term sheet negotiation for a $950-million loan guarantee under the Title 17 Clean Energy Financing Program. The Net-Zero 1 plant aims to produce 65 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel annually using renewable energy sources.
Uniper and Sasol ecoFT have applied for funding from the Swedish Energy Agency to develop SAF using Sasol's Fischer-Tropsch technology. The project, SkyFuelH2, will combine biomass and renewable hydrogen, aiming for construction by 2025 and potential supply to the aviation industry by 2028.
PT Pertamina Patra Niaga, a subsidiary of Pertamina, is preparing infrastructure for distributing SAF, currently under development. The SAF has shown promising results in static tests, with commercial aircraft testing planned. This move aligns with Pertamina Group's aim for net-zero emissions by 2060.
Chinese company Shandong Haike Chemical Co. has selected Axens' Vegan technology to produce SAF. This technology can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional jet fuel. This marks Axens' first Vegan technology reference in Asia.
Garuda Indonesia is testing jet fuel mixed with 2.4% palm oil in Boeing aircraft engines, marking the first trial of renewable energy by an Indonesian commercial airline. The tests follow state-owned energy company Pertamina's successful static tests of SAF as part of efforts to help Indonesia meet its 2060 net-zero targets.
New technology: Electric and Hydrogen
eVTOL developer Archer Aviation is expanding its partnership with the US Department of Defense, with the Air Force planning to acquire Midnight eVTOLs from Archer. A contract worth up to $142 million includes additional flight test data, pilot training, and maintenance development. The Air Force plans to use the aircraft for transport, logistics, and rescue operations.
Finavia is involved in the HyAirport hydrogen project, aimed at fostering fossil-free aviation in the Baltic Sea Region. The €4 million EU-funded initiative will research and promote hydrogen use at airports, developing logistics for hydrogen-powered maintenance equipment and short flights. Several Baltic Sea airport operators are participating in the project, set to launch in November 2023.
Electric aircraft startup Pyka has received FAA approval to operate its uncrewed, zero-emissions crop sprayer, Pelican Spray, commercially in the US. The 1,125-pound aircraft, the largest of its kind, is already used in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Brazil. Pyka plans to expand to US farms, leveraging the approval to build trust in electric aviation technology.
Spain's Surcar Airlines is working to provide 100% green flights by retrofitting Twin Otter seaplanes with a hydrogen-electric powertrain, the ZA600, developed by ZeroAvia. Aimed at cutting emissions for tourist transportation in the Canary Islands, the ZA600 promises a 300-mile range, suitable for island-hopping. ZeroAvia hopes to launch commercial services by 2025, aligning with Spain's carbon-neutral transportation goal by 2050.
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